My Memories of Oakmont

By Mark RolfingMay 25, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editors Note: Mark Rolfing hosts the Golf Channel show Golf Hawaii. For more information about the show or golf in Hawaii log on to www.golfhawaii.com
 
As the much anticipated U.S. Open draws closer I am constantly flooded with memories from the last U.S. Open held at Oakmont back in 1994. It was a week that I will never forget. And while most of the memories are great there are some that are bittersweet but more about that later.
 
Oakmont is without a doubt one of my favorite venues in championship golf. It is a very stern test with the most difficult set of putting surfaces I have ever seen. But in a couple of weeks we will be seeing a new Oakmont. Length has been added. (If the USGA decides to use a back hole location at number 8 we may well see our first 300 yard par 3.) Bunkers have been added. (Including more rows to the famous church pews between the 4th and 5th holes) And many of the bunkers have also been made deeper. But the most notable difference will be the look of the golf course. Nearly 5000 trees have been removed, restoring the treasured layout to its original character. It will look breathtaking on television.
 
Its been thirteen years since Oakmont CC last hosted a U.S. Open but it sure doesnt seem that long ago to me. With his Monday playoff victory Ernie Els captured his first major championship and clearly established himself as one of the game's elite players. It was blustering hot that day nearly 100 degrees and Colin Montgomerie nearly melted in his outfit of navy blue pants and shirt actually he did, shooting a 78. The entire playoff seemed awkward to me. In fact on the short par 4 second hole Els, Montgomerie and Roberts combined for a total of 18 strokes! But my most vivid memory of the week didnt come from that Monday, it came on Friday afternoon and no matter what else happens in my broadcast career there was a minute that will always be my favorite.
 
Arnold Palmer was playing in his final U.S. Open and having grown up just outside the Pittsburgh area you can image what the scene was like at Oakmont. As Arnold approached the 18th green on Friday it was clear that he would not make the cut. This would be his last hole. The reception was deafening. I was in the area adjacent to the scoring trailer when Arnold came out after signing his scorecard. We were just about to go off the air on ESPN as a live World Cup Soccer game was about to begin. Even though the area was literally packed with media Arnold walked straight over to me. The next minute seemed like ten to me. I asked a question, Arnold could not talk. Then there were tears. Then I could barely talk. Not much was actually said but its a moment Ill never forget.
 
Now for the bittersweet part; having begun my career at ESPN in 1986, I had then worked for NBC Sports from 1988-1991. After the Ryder Cup in 1991 I left to go to work for ABC for several reasons including money. Another reason was that ABC had the U.S. Open television package and the U.S. Open has always been my favorite championship. However in 1993, the USGA awarded the U.S. Open television package to NBC. The 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont would be ABCs last. I was devastated.
 
NBC Sports began its U.S. Open run at Shinnecock Hills in 1995. I was there only watching. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to rejoin the NBC Sports golf team in 1998. Now I get to go back to Oakmont in a couple of weeks to work at what I think will be a fabulous U.S. Open. I cant wait!
 
Thats My View.
 





Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.
Getty Images

Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

Getty Images

Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

Getty Images

Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.